Nearly a full week had elapsed since opening day of the 2017 deer season. It was on that day that I messed up an opportunity to bag a nice buck, the result of fickle fate and being a little too unfamiliar with my firearm. Thinking of that buck bounding away hurts my heart as bad as the day it happened.
The only solace from the pain after it happened was the knowledge that I’d have at least one, maybe two more weekends to go out and get my deer. My spirits were further buoyed by the fact that I had gone and bought an anterless deer tag which meant that I could also shoot a doe if I happened upon one. I wasn’t going home empty handed again if I could avoid it.
The next chance I had to go hunting was on the afternoon of 19 November, after Owen’s swimming lessons. The little guy was generally so tired from them he would sleep for a few hours, it presented the perfect opportunity for me to slip away for a late afternoon hunt.
This is part of two of three, I hope you enjoy.
The Halfway Hunt
After getting back from swimming lessons and helping Kelly get Owen ready for his nap, I ran downstairs and hastily gathered my gear that I had organized the night before. Knowing I had much less time to hunt that afternoon because of the shorter days, I decided to wear all my hunting clothes for the trip north. The idea behind this being I could walk straight into the woods after arriving.
As I left the city in Kelly’s little blue Pontiac, I kept the window down about halfway to keep from overheating. Right away it seemed like fate was being fickle again as I hit every red light on my way. Granted it wasn’t a total waste as I got a pretty good laugh at the odd looks from the people stopped next to me in the traffic. I can only imagine what someone dressed up in my combination of blaze orange and camo in a little blue coupe looked like to average joe city goer.
Once I got past the city streets and perimeter road I made great time on the highway. Perhaps it only seemed to take a lot less time than before due to the fact as I was thinking about my last hunt, but also maybe it was due to unconsciously putting extra pressure on the gas pedal. Of course, I couldn’t help but to ask God and the fates for another chance at a deer. I remember being very specific when I spoke my request out loud in the car.
“Ok God, I would like to shoot a deer this trip! Close to the car if possible and not because I hit it with my car…Mr Smarty Pants.”
About an hour later when I arrived I opened the trunk to pull out the same Remington Model 14 that had cost me my buck the last hunt. I thought I had better try it again in order to “blood it” and break any bad luck still lingering with it. However while I believed in second chances and breaking the bad luck I wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice and right beside it in the trunk was my nice little iron sight single shot 30-30 made by Husqvarna, as back up just in case.
As I stepped away from the car I noted it was much colder of afternoon than it had been on opening day and the snow not nearly as fresh. Every footstep I took seemed to create an impossibly loud crunch which echoed around me and made listening for movement in the trees incredibly hard. The air, bitter and dry, stung the exposed skin of my face making it necessary to stop every so often and readjust my scarf.
I walked the same route I had taken the week previously, scrutinizing every tree branch to make sure it wasn’t the antler of the buck that had got away. As I travelled through the deserted trees there were far less fresh deer sign than there had been before. It was hard not to get pessimistic about my chances, it was cold, there were less tracks and the afternoon was not an optimal hunting time. But overall it was still hunting and I was enjoying myself despite being a bit cranky about my prospects.
As the hours went by and the light began to fade I decided to park myself on tree stump looking down a small well travelled creek that had frozen over. This spot, out of all the kilometres I had walked, had the best and most recent tracks and was likely my best chance for deer as the sun began set. I got myself comfortable, practised raising my rifle a few times to make sure everything seemed like it would work and then went motionless.
For those who haven’t actually sat motionless for a prolonged period, it is more work that it sounds like. Focusing to your front but listening intently all around to the sounds of the forest is incredibly taxing. The rhythmic slow sounds of your breathing make it difficult to tell if there’s a deer nearby or if it’s just the subtle creak and groan of a tree rocked by a breeze. Those muscles, sore from hours of walking and wanting to be stretched, have to be ignored as does the runny nose tickling your upper lip. On top of all this the fatigue of hunting, being so acutely aware of everything around you causes your vision to occasionally blur as you lose focus and slip, just for half of a second, towards dozing off. Torture and pleasurable at the same time for sure.
Unfortunately sitting patiently and motionless for 45 min proved to be fruitless, and as the time for the legal last shot was fast approaching I threw in the towel and walked back to the car. I was disappointed that I hadn’t seen a single deer, but I kept the hope alive as I walked back to the car keeping my eyes peeled and my gun loaded. Seeing nothing once I reached the car I was still somewhat upset but also quite cold so didn’t mind that the hunt was over and could now warm up. I was just glad to have had the chance again.
I backed the car out the approach and made my way down the grid road towards home. Turning right onto the highway off the grid and gathering speed, a car going the other way flashed their lights at me. I slowed down knowing it was either the police or deer and fished a few bullets out of my pocket just in case it was the latter. As I continued to drive I spotted the deer in the ditch a little ways ahead. With my heart starting to beat a little faster I checked the clock to see if I was still inside the legal window for hunting. Happily, I saw that there were still ten minutes left. I knew it was foolish but I wanted a deer so bad and I wasn’t sure if I would get another hunt so I pulled over about five-hundred metres away, got out the little single shot and started to run.
I crossed the highway and ran into a piece of crown land I hadn’t explored and found all sorts of deer tracks amongst the trees. Running carelessly towards where I’d seen the deer, I started slow as I was uncertain of the terrain and how far I had already gone. I think this may have been creditable to being a little colder than I thought and my brain wasn’t working very well. The problem it was trying to figure out was where I was in relation to the deer and how far I was from the highway in order to make a legal shot. In the end I stood there in the dark and quiet forest with the light and legal time slipping away and thankfully convinced myself it was all a fools errand. I marched back to the car, once again even more defeated and this time embarrassed at my frantic effort. I threw the unloaded gun beside me in the gloriously warm car and headed home.
On the drive back I decided I’d call my folks to tell them about the hunt. Mom and Dad were always happy to chat and it was therapeutic for me to tell them about the hunt and the things I had seen as well as to catch up withwhat they had been up to that day. As we talked and the kilometres rolled by I noticed some flashing hazard lights ahead. Getting closer it turned out to be a car and truck pulled off to the side of the road. I told my folks I’d call them back after I checked out if the people needed a hand.
When I pulled over it was easy to see that the car had struck a deer and that another gentleman had stopped to give them assistance. I parked on the same side and in front of their vehicles and added my flashers to the other blinking red lights piercing dark moonless night.
Walking over to offer my help I could see the wounded deer lying on the pavement caught in the beam of light from the one remaining headlight of the damaged car. It was pretty badly beat up with a broken back and broken rear legs. As I got closer I overheard the fellow in the truck talking with the RCMP and asking permission to stab the deer in order to put it out of its misery. He saw me dressed in my blaze orange and pantomimed a gun to ask whether I had one with me and could shoot the deer. Nodding I went back to my car and grabbed the little 30-30 off the passenger seat. By the time I got back the other fellow was just confirming with the RCMP that I was authorized to put the deer down. I took my cue and quickly stepped close to the deer checked to make sure the shot was safe and then fired killing it instantly and ending its suffering.
After helping to get the deer out of the way and doing one last check to make sure that everyone was good, I got back in the car and resumed my drive. I couldn’t believe that after seeing nothing all day and after just having finished complaining to my folks about not getting a deer, I did, right next to my car exactly as I had requested. I called my folks back to tell them what had transpired and they couldn’t believe it either. It made me think of a qoute I read once somewhere that I think about from time to time, “An awful lot of things had to go terribly wrong for me to end up in the right place.”
All the best,